2014 – a year of action

December 18th, 2014

2014 - a year of action

As 2014 draws to a close, we’re pleased to say that each of our projects saw great progress this year. The Bus Rapid Transit projects start and end at different times so each has its own construction schedule to match the unique challenges, such as: length of rapidway, complexity of underground work, and landscape and infrastructure features like hills and bridges. As we progress through these challenges we consider them milestones, and after a year of milestones there are plenty of moments to look back on.

On Highway 7 East in Markham, the second stretch of rapidway opened from Highway 404 to South Town Centre Boulevard, and construction will be complete on the last piece to Warden Avenue by the end of 2014, with some finishing touches to add in spring 2015. This final section allows Viva customers to experience the future of rapid transit in York Region, from Bayview Avenue in Richmond Hill to the Downtown Markham development area. Riders are already seeing up to 35% travel time savings on the rapidways.

In Newmarket on Davis Drive, utilities and telecommunications were relocated to prepare for road widening and building the rapidways in the centre of the road. Road widening continued and base-layer paving was also completed in sections along Davis. Significant milestones included: completing the structure of the Keith Bridge and reopening the Tom Taylor Trail, moving the Union Hotel into its final location and installing the steel structures for the first vivastation at Longford/Parkside. The glass canopies will be installed over the winter and the vivastations at Main Street and Southlake Hospital are also underway. It’s been a busy, messy year but crews are working quickly. We’re in the home stretch with the rapidway set to open December 2015.

Along Highway 7 West in Vaughan, the first phase of rapidways is well underway and a there has been a lot of progress in 2014. Between Jane Street and the CN Bridge, work continues on base-layer paving, building retaining walls and expanding the CN Bridge, and we’re almost done relocating some underground infrastructure. East of Jane Street, the road has been widened and traffic has been shifted, so that work in the centre of the road [including paving, installing vivastations platforms and canopies!] can begin in 2015. The contract for phase two of the rapidways in Vaughan will be awarded in 2015, adding dedicated bus lanes and vivastations from Edgeley Boulevard to Pine Valley Drive and from Bowes Road to Yonge Street [in blue on map]. While some pre-construction activities are already underway, construction is expected to begin in late 2015/early 2016.

On Yonge Street in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, the contractor is working to finalize the rapidway design and construction schedule. Meanwhile, crews are out conducting surveys and utility investigations to make sure we have an accurate record of what’s above and below the ground.

We’re also building a state-of-the-art Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility in Richmond Hill to act as a ‘home base’ for transit. This nine-acre, 481,679 square foot facility will be LEED® certified [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design], and is scheduled to be complete mid-2015.

Everyone’s busy making memories during the holidays, but we hope that you’ll have a few moments to see some of our videos that give you a sneak peak at rapid transit in York Region:

Where did it all begin? See the launch of curbside Viva service in 2005. Also see the vision for the transformation of York Region and some of the considerations given to the design of the rapidway vivastation, and take a peek inside the rapidway vivastations.

While you’re watching videos, why not find out what’s happening in your community:

 

 

 

from messy to marvelous – davis drive year in review

December 12th, 2014

Video: from messy to marvelous - davis drive year in review

It’s an exciting time as the transformation of Davis Drive has made significant progress and is starting to be seen along the corridor.

A lot of progress above ground was made this year and a number of milestones were achieved, all of which clears the way for 2015 and the last year of construction. We thank you for bearing with us through the mess and as we work hard to finish as quickly as possible.

Standing at Yonge and Davis, you can look down Davis Drive and see the installation of boulevards and planters. As you travel to your destination you’ll notice the decorative planters along with interlocking paving stones and concrete sidewalks in areas from Yonge Street to Longford/Parkside Drive.

Construction of the vivastation at Parkside/Longford and Davis is making great progress. The steel structure for the vivastation is in place and the glass for the canopies will be arriving soon.

Construction of two more vivastations at Main and Southlake Hospital are also underway.

The structure of the Keith Bridge has been rebuilt and the Tom Taylor Trail has been restored to its original location under Keith Bridge; which is located just past the GO train station.

VivaNext will be moving to the next phase of rapidway construction where station platforms, canopies and eventually rapid transit bus lanes will be built in the centre of the road. As a result, there will be permanent changes to how motorists use intersections, traffic lanes and access businesses along Davis. New traffic signals have been installed at Yonge, George and Barbara. Drivers can now make dedicated left-turns and U-turns where U-turn permitted signs are posted. From our experience on Highway 7, these new movements help the traffic flow smoother. For more information on these important changes please visit vivanext.com

We captured a number of these accomplishments on video and condensed them into a short clip for your viewing pleasure. The investment in modernizing our roads and revitalizing Newmarket’s infrastructure will go a long way to making sure Davis Drive is built on a solid foundation that will serve the growing needs of Newmarket for many decades to come. We look forward to the rapidway opening in 2015 and bringing Viva service to Davis Drive.

seeing the transformation unfold on highway 7 west

December 3rd, 2014

click here to see the video of 2014 Vaughan rapidway construction

we’ve been busy this year

Construction is well underway for the first phase of vivaNext rapidways in the City of Vaughan, and the transformation can be seen along Highway 7 West. Check out our latest video for an up-close look at the milestones we’ve accomplished this year. Although construction will continue throughout the winter months from Edgeley Boulevard to Bowes Road, here’s an update on the progress made in 2014:

  • Traffic has been shifted east of Jane Street to its final configuration, so that work in the centre of the road [including platforms and canopies] can begin in 2015.
  • As part of the 8-metre expansion of the Canadian National Railway [CN] MacMillan Bridge, we poured over 800 tonnes of concrete to create new columns and bridge pier caps.
  • Underground infrastructure revitalization continues – utility, telecommunications and storm sewer relocation is approximately 80% completed.
  • Road widening is completed and base-layer paving is 90% finished between Jane Street and the CN Bridge. Paving activities will continue in 2015.
  • In order to preserve the existing Black Creek and Hillside Culverts, retaining walls were built. In total, five retaining walls have been completed along the corridor with a few more set to get started in 2015.
  • Important traffic and pedestrian changes can be seen at several intersections. Motorists are benefiting from new turning movements and pedestrians now have two-stage crossings.

We know construction can be messy and disruptive at times, and we thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue the transformation. For up-to-date information on construction progress and activities, visit http://www.vivanext.com/hwy7progress.

 

building great cities

November 27th, 2014

Building Great Cities

York Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy is how our Region is making sure there will be room for our growing population to live, work and play, while also protecting our sensitive lands and green zones. As our Region grows, new homes, workplaces, retail and recreational facilities are being established all along the corridors, and clustered in higher density centres in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Newmarket.  And to make it easier for people to get where they want to go, without always needing to get in their car, rapid transit corridors featuring Viva’s comfortable Bus Rapid Transit service will link those centres.

Centres and Corridors has been a key component of Regional Council’s strategic priorities, and the amount of development actively underway in all the centres shows that great progress is already being made. But what are the steps required behind the scenes, to create the kinds of communities that are taking shape in the centres?

The first step, and one that was approved long ago, is that Regional Council provided strategic direction confirming the Centres and Corridors plan as the foundation for the Region’s Official Plan.  The Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe reinforces the principles of increased intensification and city-building, and specifically identifies the four centres as “urban growth centres.”

Included in the Provincial Growth Plan are targets for the number of people and jobs to be supported per hectare. The Region’s Official Plan includes these targets, and also establishes policies to encourage transit, pedestrian-friendly street designs, and mixed-use development.

Building on the Region’s policies, each municipality then has to review their own official plan to make sure it conforms and supports the Region’s plan. Municipalities then develop secondary plans, which set out specific land use rules and targets for defined areas including the centres.  Secondary plans shape future development, providing guidance on minimum densities, building heights, streetscaping and other strategies to encourage welcoming, pedestrian-friendly development.

Once the general rules for land use have been developed, municipalities and the Region then actively work to attract new employers and development investments.  Economic Development experts work with their Planning Department colleagues and with potential investors, to create new or expanded work opportunities.  A key driver for many of the new employment opportunities that have already been announced in York Region is the proximity to rapid transit, and the availability of a strong, educated workforce.

And the last component of our multi-pronged approach is to ensure that new housing options are available all along the corridors and in the centres.  We know that people want to live relatively near to where they work, with a short commute being highly valued.  The new housing developments that are springing up near our vivaNext routes are already providing very attractive options for people wanting an urban home, with great access to transit and work.

City-building isn’t a short-term process, but with all these components working together, bit by bit our centres and corridors are being transformed into exciting, urban places, while protecting and respecting existing developments and our natural environment.  For everyone, that means more options, more choices, and linking it all together, more Viva.

 

newmarket’s union hotel has a new home

November 19th, 2014

newmarket’s union hotel has a new home

Rapidways are on the way to Davis Drive and to make room, the Union Hotel on the northeast corner of Davis Drive and Main Street has been moved to its new location at the back of the original property. It took careful precision and planning to move this old building to its permanent foundation and now it’s finally settled in. We captured the preservation of this important piece of history on video. Check out the full behind-the-scenes video to see how it was done.

Built in 1881, the Union Hotel is one of Newmarket’s many distinctive heritage buildings. Designed by local architect John Ough, it still has many of its original features, including mouldings, staircases and woodwork. Although it’s known as the “Union Hotel,” past owners include James Burke, who manufactured soda water here, Patrick Hodgins Sr., who used it as a store and residence, and more recently Robert Armstrong with a real estate business.

Relocating the Union Hotel ensures the gateway to Newmarket’s downtown heritage area is preserved.

 

design it, then build it – simple, right?

November 12th, 2014

design it, then build it - simple, right?

You probably know where we’re going with this. It’s not simple to design and build a major transportation project, but we’re getting better and better at it.

It starts with a consistent vision of a transit system that matches plans for the future by the Province and the Region. A plan for making the vision a reality comes next, as dedicated lanes for Bus Rapid Transit – rapidways – connecting York Region’s key urban centres. It’s more than transit though, with designs including updated infrastructure and pedestrian-friendly, attractive surroundings. The 34 kilometres of rapidway and 37 vivastations are divided into design-build projects, based on funding and logistics. Closing roads entirely isn’t an option, so construction timelines are longer to allow for keeping lanes open as much as possible, and projects are staggered so that there isn’t too much work being done, all at once.

We select a contractor through a competitive bidding process. This is an important point in the project, because what is or isn’t included in the contract can impact the timing or costs of a project at a later point. We have highly-skilled engineering, construction and procurement professionals whose advice ensures we procure the project accurately and fairly. Even so, there are an enormous amount of details to consider, and every aspect needs careful thought. The procurement of each project has been tailored to its particular circumstances, and has improved on the project before it.

For the first rapidway project, Highway 7 East, the utility work and the design-build of the project were each coordinated by a separate contractor at the same time. The intention was for a quick build, but it was a challenge for two separate contractors to schedule intertwined work in the same locations.

For the next two projects, Davis Drive and Highway 7 West [Interchange Way to Bowes Road], the same contractor coordinated the utility work and built the project. This helped the contractor to schedule the work, although there were still unexpected elements underground to deal with, as is the case with most construction projects. The contract for the latter project, Highway 7 West, also included more requirements for utility coordination and recognition of timelines needed for permits and relocating utilities.

We recently procured the contractor for the rapidway on Yonge Street, and even more was done to ensure the project runs smoothly. A Subsurface Utility Engineering [SUE] study was fully completed before we even issued the RFP, and the results of the study gave bidders a better understanding of the existing infrastructure, preparing them for the utility work included in the contract. As with the Highway 7 West contract, timelines allowed for permits and utility relocation, and in this case they were fully scheduled. A requirement was also added for an Independent Quality Certifier [IQC] to make it easier to monitor and audit quality of work – previously this was a combined effort.

So building it isn’t simple, but each project has helped improve the next, and we’ve already built and put into service 11 vivastations and 6 kilometres of rapidway. Each project has unique features and challenges, but the end results are worth it… we hope you have tried the improved service on Highway 7 East, as Viva now travels in its own dedicated lane!

 

intersections are changing: u-turns and 2-stage crosswalks

November 6th, 2014

intersections are changing: u-turns and 2-stage crosswalks

On Highway 7 West and Davis Drive in Newmarket, important changes are on the way for how drivers and pedestrians use intersections and travel along the road. Each rapidway project is at a different stage, and along the Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham and Richmond Hill, these road and intersection changes have been in effect for about two years.

Aside from rapidways for fast, convenient transit, projects include wider sidewalks and attractive landscaping. Each project helps to connect York Region, and manage future growth for generations to come. Once construction is underway in the centre of the road on Highway 7 West and Davis Drive, here are some of the changes that you need to watch for, and follow the signs:

Dedicated left-turns

  • Dedicated left-turn lanes at rapidway intersections
  • Dedicated left-turn signals – motorists can only turn left when the left-turn arrow is illuminated

Right-turn access, via intersections with u-turn signs

  • To access to mid-block destinations on the opposite side of the road, motorists will make u-turns at intersections.
  • Rapidway intersections with u-turn signs will allow drivers to make a u-turn from the left turn lane, once the left-turn arrow is illuminated.
  • Global studies of traffic control have shown this to be a safer way to turn left on a multi-lane road.

Shared lanes for right-turn and through traffic

  • Curb-side lanes will be shared by right-turning and straight-through traffic.

Two-stage pedestrian crossings

  • Intersections will be wider with the new rapidway lanes.
  • Pedestrians may cross intersections in two stages if unable to cross in the first signal.
  • A waiting area will be in the middle of the crosswalk, where pedestrians can press the “walk” button and wait for the next signal.
  • Pedestrians will need to press the “walk” button for the “walk” signal to be displayed.

 

planning for a rainy day

October 29th, 2014

planning for a rainy day

If you’ve ever stood at the bottom of a hill in a field or forest at the end of a sudden summer rain shower, you’ll have seen how water naturally runs down to the lowest point, then gradually drains away, soaking into the ground and running into the nearest stream or pond. Obviously, water will always drain in a downward direction, even when a site becomes developed by roads or buildings. Engineers use what are known as “storm water management” techniques to minimize the negative impacts of changes in drainage associated with new development and construction.

The drainage needs of the widened road network that are being built for vivaNext are no different from those in a new housing development or a natural forest: at the bottom of every hill, water will collect and need to be drained away somewhere. So, storm water management has one overarching goal: to mimic as much as possible the natural, pre-developed conditions of a site in terms of both how water drains, and the quality of the water that is being drained.

There are a number of tools that are used in storm water management, depending on the situation. On the vivaNext rapidway project, the primary tool is the storm sewer system. Storm sewers run under the roadway, collecting water that runs off the road through storm sewer inlets. These inlets are either set horizontally into the road beside the curb, or vertically into the curb itself.

The more an area is developed or paved the less permeable ground there is to absorb run-off, resulting in more water needing to be drained through the storm water system. Specialists do hydraulic calculations to determine how much water will collect on the roadways during a typical storm, and ensure that the storm sewer system can drain it away promptly. Storm sewers drain into the naturally occurring creeks and streams that exist throughout our urban areas, although many have been buried so you won’t be aware of them. In some areas, these pipes may be aging and ready to be replaced to accommodate the increased volumes of run-off.

In addition to preventing flooding, the other critical component of storm water management is to mimic the natural conditions where rainwater is filtered through the ground, leaving the eventual run-off as clean as possible.

To replicate this natural filtering mechanism on roadways, water collected in the storm sewers runs through a special filter called an Oil Grit Separator [OGS] before it is released into a creek or stream. OGS are designed to capture substances like grit, oil and sand that collect on a roadway and get washed away during a rainstorm.

Another tool to improve the quality of run-off is the use of storm water management ponds, which contain and filter the outflow from storm sewers in a more natural way, trapping the grit and oil in their muddy bottoms, producing cleaner water that flows into watercourses or pipes.

Storm water management is an important issue that is overseen by a variety of approving bodies, including federal and provincial ministries, and in the case of our vivaNext projects, two conservation authorities.

How we plan drainage for water is one of those important components of any project that will be unseen to most. But whether or not you can see it, respecting the natural environment is important to everyone, and in the last few years the storms and crazy weather we have experienced have truly made that more apparent!

 

bright-coloured leaves bring early eves

October 23rd, 2014

bright-coloured leaves bring early eves

This time of year brings bright-coloured leaves, pumpkins and Halloween fun, but the early evenings take a little getting used to. The days are getting shorter, especially once Daylight Savings time ends on Sunday, November 2.

We thank everyone for paying attention near construction zones, following directional signs and watching out for construction crews. And we hope that as it gets dark earlier, drivers and pedestrians will each be especially careful. Following the rules of the road and doing what is expected – drivers signaling, pedestrians crossing at the lights – goes a long way toward keeping everyone safe. Visibility helps too. Drivers can use full headlights at dusk and in bad weather, and pedestrians and cyclists can take a cue from construction workers and wear bright or reflective colours.

As the leaves fall from the trees, vivaNext construction crews are working hard to finish the warm-weather work before the snow flies. Crews will continue some work through the winter though, because we know how important it is to complete construction, making way for the final results: convenient rapid transit surrounded by attractive, walkable streetscape that sets the stage for future growth.

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next is now >> highway 7 in markham

October 15th, 2014

next is now >> highway 7 in markham

We’re growing right along with you as we enjoy the next section of the rapidway, now open along Highway 7 from Highway 404 to Town Centre Boulevard.

Riders can now board Viva in the centre-lane rapidway, and vivastations are directly accessible from crosswalks at traffic lights. Not only is this section of Highway 7 now more efficient for pedestrians, cyclists, riders and drivers, but the landscape is being transformed with new trees and other greenery. Vivastations are in service at Allstate Parkway, Woodbine Avenue, Montgomery Court, and Town Centre Boulevard. New dedicated centre lanes for Viva allow riders to enjoy faster and more consistent travel times through this congested area. Our customers are telling us “@YRTViva Love how fast the bus is on the new extended rapidway. Got to the mall really quick!”

Markham is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Ontario, home to over 332,000 people, covering 212 square kilometres of land. More than 400 companies are headquartered in Markham due to a well-defined transportation and communication network, high quality facilities, a diverse and highly educated labour force and pro-business environment. The vivaNext transformation of this urban corridor will help support growth, and reduce congestion to help make Markham, and the rest of York Region, a more inviting place to live, commute, shop and play.

For Highway 7 East, the future of rapid transit is here – next is now. Students are settled into school already, so here’s a [fun] lesson on history – watch our then, now & next transformation video of Markham and be sure to get out and experience the new rapidways this fall!